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Web Design & The 80:20 Rule

Can you get more customers from your website if you put in less work? Yes, you can courtesy of the wonderful Pareto Law (or the “80:20 Rule”).

An Unknown Law of Nature

The 80:20 rule is one of those principles which many of us seem to know about (if only vaguely) but not always what to do with. If you’re not familiar with it, let me explain. Essentially the 80:20 rule states that 80% of the effects are produced by 20% of the causes. There are lots of complicated maths to underpin this but it is a proven real-life rule. For example, 80% of the world’s income comes from 20% of its population. You spend 80% of your time in 20% of your house. 80% of software crashes are caused by 20% of bugs. 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals. You wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time. Anyway, you get the idea.

The problem I find with the 80:20 rule is that it’s a bit like trigonometry – it’s nice to know but at first glance, it doesn’t seem to have much everyday application. (Actually, I’m not sure that trigonometry is nice to know.) The trick is to acknowledge its existence and look for its characteristic pattern. Once you spot an aspect of business life which seems to conform to the pattern do your level best to use it to your advantage and concentrate your efforts on the 20% that will yield the greatest results.

every improvement you make could represent a five-fold increase in your website’s performance

How To Get 5x More Results

So what does this all mean for your website? Well, you will find that 80% of your visitors will only see 20% of your website and that means that you can make your website 5 times more effective by finding the 20% of pages that most of your visitors see and then doing everything you can to improve them. (You can identify these pages by analytics software like Google Analytics.) In other words, focus on and improve what the majority of people are looking at. The key thing to remember is that every improvement you make will be five times more effective than any other page simply because more people will be seeing it.

What can you do to improve these critical pages? First, if they are not your sales pages then you must make sure they direct your visitor towards the pages that do sell your products or services. If they are sales pages then consider; writing a better headline, making your contact details more visible, emphasising the benefits of your business, deepening the amount of information you present, adding a video and so on. (Here are a few ideas for you: 33 Ways to Improve Your Website, 5 Ways to Improve E-commerce Websites and 5 Quick Wins for Your Website.)

80% of your website’s revenue comes from 20% of your customers

Another example of how the 80:20 rule applies to your website is that you'll often find that 80% of your website’s revenue comes from 20% of your customers (or type of customer). What does this tell you about how to increase your website’s revenue? Simple, focus on delivering products and services aimed right at the profitable 20% of customers. Now let’s flip the idea around.

What would happen to your profits if you spent 80% of your time focused on the things which will only give you a 20% return? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that they’d probably dip quite sharply. Would it be a good use of your energies to focus on the 80% of web pages only seen by 20% of your visitors? No.

Now it is unlikely that anyone would deliberately focus on the least productive parts of their business. Instead, they are more likely to spend some time working on the profitable 20% and some time working on the unprofitable 80% (and this is very often because they don't know which one is which). (In all likelihood, they probably haven’t even recognised that there is a 20% that they should focus on!)

Take some time to identify the 80:20 pattern in your online life and use that knowledge to plan your time and resources. You’ll be surprised at the speed and level of results you obtain when you focus on high-yield activities.

Remember, every improvement you make could represent a five-fold increase in your website’s performance.

And finally, there’s also a spin-off benefit for you and that is you will only need to spend time improving the top 20% of pages on your website and not every page. The result of which is your time will be five times more productive. Gosh, one of life’s win:wins!


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